Gift of the Whale: The Inupiat Bowhead Hunt, a Sacred Tradition

Gift of the Whale: The Inupiat Bowhead Hunt, a Sacred Tradition

by Bill Hess
     
 

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Photographer and writer Bill Hess shares a deeply moving portrait of a remote region, its people, and whale-hunting, one of the oldest and most sacred cultural traditions.

The Inupiat Eskimos on the north coast of Alaska have been hunting whales since the beginning of time. Their way of life has evolved around the seasonal cycle of ice and migration, and Bill Hess

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Overview

Photographer and writer Bill Hess shares a deeply moving portrait of a remote region, its people, and whale-hunting, one of the oldest and most sacred cultural traditions.

The Inupiat Eskimos on the north coast of Alaska have been hunting whales since the beginning of time. Their way of life has evolved around the seasonal cycle of ice and migration, and Bill Hess offers us a rare look at this difficult yet beautiful culture. His duotone photographs of the Inupiat, the harsh Arctic landscape, wildlife, and subsistence hunting are powerful, remarkable images that illustrate the importance of whaling to a people who continue to survive, and to find joy in their survival, against great odds. Gift of the Whale is a remarkable addition to the anthropological and cultural history of Alaska.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Hess, an award-winning photographer and writer, reveals the harsh Arctic landscape and the richly complex way of life it has wrought for the I<~n>upiat Eskimos of Alaska. Having earned the trust of the community, he was invited to document, over a number of years, their annual bowhead hunt. Rather than romanticizing the I<~n>upiat or the hunt itself, he shows their history and traditions juxtaposed against contemporary life. Through his numerous stark and beautiful duotone photographs, the reader can recognize the importance of this whaling tradition to a people who continue to survive and who find joy in that survival, against great odds. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Peter Morgan
Hess shares an intimate portrait of a region, its people, and one of our country's most ancient and sacred traditions.
Hungry Mind Review
Donald Dale Jackson
Hess succeeds in giving us a portrait of a world we'd probably never know otherwise, but I think his real achievement is not so much his words and pictures as his courage, sensitivity and endurance. He simply hung in, and in the end he got the job done.
Smithsonian
Kirkus Reviews
Through intensely atmospheric pictures and a rawboned text, photographer and journalist Hess documents here his 20-year association with the annual Iñupiat whale hunt in Barrow, Akaska. The text has the quality of fleshed-out diary entries, as Hess recounts the specifics of the hunt and select incidents from this frigid North Slope landscape. There is the search for a hunter gone missing on a night too cold to be out; the multinational rescue of three gray whales doomed by thickening ice; and a rogue storm that rudely exposes the burial place of a shaman. Hess does a yeoman's job explaining the tradition of the hunt: how the whale morphs between dietary mainstay and ages-old relict in the Iñupiat cosmology; the hunter's conduct; and how the sorry history of Yankee whaling in the region has affected the Iñupiat by taking numberless whales to satisfy the demand for corsets and leaving behind disease and quotas on the native harvest. But it's the photographs that really sing. The black-and-white images project a deep antiquity situated squarely in the present, skillfully conveying both the respect accorded these creatures and the wholesale joy and sense of community the whales bring to the far, far north.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781570611636
Publisher:
Sasquatch Books
Publication date:
09/01/1999
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
11.30(w) x 9.81(h) x 0.95(d)

Meet the Author

Bill Hess publishes two Native publications, Iuniq and Village Voices. He lives in Wasilla, AK.

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